The latest third-party projections for the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame don’t bode well for former Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa.
One would think that at some point, people would get over the Steroid Era. I mean, we’ve seen Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds both re-enter the game as members of big league coaching staffs and their respective Cooperstown support tick upward year after year. But one guy who still gets no love? The former face of the Chicago Cubs – Sammy Sosa.
According to Ryan Thibodaux, who heads an annual tracker dedicated to the Hall of Fame votes that are made public, Sosa sits at just 13.6 percent of public ballots – with an even murkier 12.9 percent projection on the final vote.
Those are harsh numbers for a guy who ranks ninth all-time on baseball’s home run list. A player who, along with Ken Griffey Jr. and Mark McGwire, helped bring the game back from the brink of darkness in the summer of 1998 in baseball’s great home run chase.
As someone who spends far too much time on Baseball Reference, I can’t help but be amazed at some of the numbers Sosa put up for the Lovable Losers. People forget – to this day, he remains the only player in big league history to hit more than 60 home runs in three separate campaigns.
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From 1998 to 2001, Sosa averaged a 1.058 OPS with 61 home runs and 149 RBI. That worked out to a 168 OPS+ while playing, again, in an average of 158 games per year during that stretch. From 1998 to 2003, the Chicago slugger finished in the top ten in NL MVP voting each season, winning the honors with his historic ’98 campaign.
Although he finished behind McGwire in the home run race, clubbing 66 to the Cardinals slugger’s 70, Sosa drove in 158 runs, scored 134 runs and racked up 416 total bases as he helped baseball catapult back into the national spotlight.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The tail end of Sosa’s playing days and the years that have followed have not done him any favors. He’s come off in interviews as conceited and fairly standoffish – something he came under fire for at times during his playing career. But if we’re talking about the Hall of Fame, I don’t care about if someone acts that way – I care about how he played the game.
Which brings us to his biggest issue – his suspected PED usage. While guys like McGwire, Bonds and Clemens have managed to put the matter behind them in various ways, Sosa continues to battle these accusations – with little success.
And it seems that his vanity has cost him a shot at baseball immortality. While Bonds and Clemens are nearing the 75 percent threshold (based on these projections at 67.4 and 66.6 percent, respectively) – Sosa has less than one-fifth that number of votes.
And, in the meantime, solid ballplayers like Omar Vizquel – a fundamentally sound guy who never put together bodies of work on the same level of Sosa – are expected to eclipse 40 percent of the vote.
As irritating as Sammy Sosa’s antics and behavior can be, it’s disheartening that other PED users like Bonds and Clemens are nearing enshrinement in Cooperstown while he languishes near the bottom of the ballot amongst the likes of Jeff Kent, Lance Berkman and Billy Wagner.